New Views on Disaster Risk Reduction
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New Views on Disaster Risk Reduction and its Relevance to National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS). Reid Basher, UN Secretariat of the ISDR, Geneva, Disaster risks - rising and changing A systematic approach to reducing risks The UN’s strategy - the ISDR

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New Views on Disaster Risk Reduction and its Relevance to National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS)

Reid Basher, UN Secretariat of the ISDR, Geneva,

  • Disaster risks - rising and changing

  • A systematic approach to reducing risks

  • The UN’s strategy - the ISDR

  • A broader concept of early warning

  • Multiple and expanding roles for NMHS?

Presentation to “Global Disaster Mitigation and Response – Challenges and Opportunities”,

An international workshop hosted by US NOAA/NWS, December 9, 2004, Seattle, USA

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Disaster risks - rising and changing (1)

  • Five-fold rise in disaster over 1960s -1990s

  • Mostly hydro-meteorological origins

  • Poor people and countries most affected

  • Loss of life versus loss of assets

  • Major handicap to development

In 2003, natural catastrophes resulted in more than 50,000 deaths and over US$ 60 B in economic losses

Source: Munich Re

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Disaster risks - rising and changing (2)

The reasons? Disasters require a vulnerable population

  • More people and poor people in risky situations

  • Unsafe development: floodplain settlement, coastal exploitation, mega-city growth, unsafe houses, wetland destruction, river channeling, deforestation, soil erosion and fertility decline

  • Exacerbated by poverty and disease, conflict and population displacement

Growing disasters are a sign of unsustainable development

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Disaster risks - rising and changing (3)

Climate change* not the main source of the disaster rise

  • But IPCC projected changes in the weather hazards associated with disasters are mostly negative

  • Observed rises in temperatures and sea levels and some increases in rainfall intensities – may be already playing a role in some disasters

  • Large uncertainties – situation may be worse than predicted – climate change is major threat

(* Where “climate change” is as defined by the UNFCCC - caused by humans.)


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A systematic approach to reducing risks

Since disasters are a human phenomenon, we can change our ways to reduce our risks

  • Shift the focus from hazards to risk management

  • Understand the nature of the risks - both the hazards and the vulnerabilities

  • Put in place the tools and methods to assess, predict, ameliorate, and respond to risk, including community commitment and advocacy

  • Ensure strong political support and administrative capacity for risk reduction

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The UN’s strategy - the ISDR

  • The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction: the follow-up to IDNDR, centerpiece of UN efforts

  • Coordinated international effort to reduce risks

  • Inter-Agency Task Force (UN, regional and civil society organizations)

  • Secretariat as catalyst: Policy development, Advocacy, Information, and Partnerships for Development

  • A vehicle for stimulating and coordinating action

On December 10, 2003, the UN General Assembly passed two detailed resolutions calling on governments and UN agencies to work more actively to reduce the risks of disasters.

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Some highlights of ISDR activities

  • Disaster risk reduction recognized in the WSSD and its Johannesburg Plan of Implementation

  • Promoted disaster risk reduction in other international forums (e.g. UNFCCC COP-9, World Urban Forum, WWF-3)

  • Systematic framework to describe the key elements of risk reduction policy and practice produced in collaboration with UNDP

  • Established regional outreach programs Africa (based in Nairobi) and Latin America and Caribbean (San Jose)

  • Collaborated with WMO on many matters - World Met and Water Days, water risks, support for CG-XI, El Niño advisories

  • Produced “Living with Risk”, a compendium of worldwide disaster risk reduction experience

  • IATF working groups advance topics of early warning, vulnerability and wildfire management

  • Organized major conference on early warning in Bonn, 2003

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The International Conference on Early Warning, 16-18 October 2003, Bonn

  • The goal – integrating early warning of disasters into public policy

  • Regional preparatory meetings, multiple stakeholders

  • Five focus areas agreed, including better data collection and forecasting, capacity building and people-centered warning systems

  • German offer to support new ISDR-led platform to sustain necessary partnership action

  • See for outcomes and reports

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Changing views of climate and disasters 2003, Bonn

  • The pre-science era - spiritual/religious, omens, fatalism, disasters as punishment or “acts of the divine”

  • The stability and statistics era, 19th C onward - Climate seen as stable, data series as powerful basis for risk management, the “100-year” event

  • The global climate system era, post 1970 - Satellites show “climate system”, global monitoring, computer models reveal climate change, ENSO, seasonal forecasts

  • Current era of change and uncertainty - Climate change, natural fluctuations (e.g. 1970s Sahel), disasters a growing concern, high stakes, growing human vulnerability

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A broader view of risk factors, a wider time frame 2003, Bonn

How to provide early warning and foresight of … Declining environmental state? Risk-raising development projects? Social communications and capacity weaknesses? Trends in markets, prices, migration, conflict, health vulnerability?


Weather, tides, floods, soils XXXX XXX

Reservoirs, snow pack XXXXXXXX

People exposed, conflict, migration XXXXXX

Crop production, food prices XXXXXX

Food reserves, food aid XXXXXX

Environmental management XXXXXXXX

Industry, urban, infrastructure design XXXXXXX

Land use planning XXXXXX

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Disaster Roles for NHMS and WMO - strategy 2003, Bonn

Play to strengths …

  • Understanding of climate system and climate variability

  • Observations and data analysis skills, assessment of risks

  • Modeling, prediction, early warning products

  • International coordination and networks

Work hard on …

  • Integrative, systematic, risk management approaches

  • Engaging in social policies and institutional processes

  • Networking and partnership approaches

  • Widening the perspective; seeking new roles and skills

Beyond the technical and product focuses

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Disaster roles for NHMS and WMO - specifics (1) 2003, Bonn

  • Risk assessment - partner with risk managers to quantify and map relevant risks, and maintain risk-relevant observation networks and archives

  • Event warning - produce good warnings, and engage in partnerships to (i) assess quality (equity of access, clarity, relevance, accuracy, timeliness) and (ii) promote effective use.

  • Impacts - Engage with sector managers to support monitoring / interpretation / projection of impacts (e.g. food supply, reservoir state, migration)

  • Vulnerability - Participate in the analysis of risks from (i) environmental, socio-economic and demographic trends, and (ii) current and proposed policies and development projects (incl. IPCC)

Contribute to ISDR through

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Disaster roles for NHMS and WMO - specifics (2) 2003, Bonn

  • Advocacy - Promote active risk reduction to policy, public and technical audiences; promote partners first.

  • Education - develop wider view of disaster risk in education and training programs

  • National platform - promote and support national mechanisms to enhance disaster risk reduction, including policy formation

  • WMO - endorse and support stronger role for Secretariat to energize disaster reduction work as per Congress-XIV decisions

  • WCDR - engage in new international thrust provided by second World Conference on Disaster Reduction (Kobe-Hyogo, 18-22 January, 2005)

Contribute to ISDR through

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Disaster reduction and NHMS - conclusions 2003, Bonn

  • Intolerable impacts of growing disasters, and looming issue of climate change

  • New thinking on disaster risk and its social context

  • A strong need - and opportunity - for NMHS to join in the ISDR and to develop their role as a partner in disaster risk reduction